Alex Palmer, 29, realized his passion for books somewhere between studying The Grapes of Wrath and The Catcher in the Rye in high school and his Shakespeare class at UCLA. "The Shakespeare class was the type where I learned the roots of it all,'' he said. "Once you can understand Shakespeare, that gives you access to so much more." In his new book, Literary Miscellany, Palmer loads up the reader with countless factoids concerning literature. Who was the first bad guy in print? What was the first bestseller? Who burned the first book? We caught up with Palmer, by phone, from his home office in New York.
What's on your nightstand?
Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel. It's told in this really compelling narrative, and that's gratifying. It's a fictitious book, yet it's based on fact, the world of Thomas Cromwell and Henry VIII. I loved the way she'd use small facts to help tell the story.
You wrote about the most evil characters in literature. Who is your favorite?
Of course, Satan is the most evil, but there are some standouts like Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter books, and Patrick Bateman in American Psycho. I think Shakespeare's Lady Macbeth is one of the most interesting villains ever. She's so complex, and she's the most interesting.
What fact intrigued you the most in your research?
That sex took so long to be really talked about in literature. I was shocked how unshocking literature was early on.
Piper Castillo, Times staff writer